Upgrade Your Holiday Dinner With These 5 Easy Sides

Upgrade Your Holiday Dinner With These 5 Easy Sides

8 minute read

Side dishes are one of those grumbly types of cooking tasks, especially when making your holiday dinner. You can't just eat a roast chicken and potatoes without something extra on the side. The classic (read: boring) sides are usually things like green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, or heaven forbid, canned corn. While we have nothing against the ordinary fare (except, perhaps, the canned stuff), it just doesn't spice up dinners with any sort of creativity. They're often a bit redundant.

Food is sustenance. But sustenance derives from "sustain," meaning to continue. Sustenance is a form of nourishment, and while our bodies certainly need nourishing, so too does our creativity, inspiration, connection, and passion. One of the reasons so many of us are drawn to cooking is that it gives us all of that. And as it turns out, creativity and passion taste really good, especially when you toss in some fresh ingredients and warm spices!

So, once we have the roast chicken, steak tartare, or soy-ginger salmon mapped out, what will it tango with? This is where most people get stuck when planning a dinner party, or family gathering. That's why we collated five of our favourite side dish recipes and share them with you here. (You don't have to come up with this all on your own!)

Pumpkin Erissery

If you haven't tried this incredible Indian side dish, you've been missing out. It's one of those hidden gems in Indian cuisine (aren't they all?) that surprises and delights for its richness and simplicity. Pumpkin erissery delivers all the grounding wholesome goodness of squash, but with an extra kick from mustard seeds, shallots, chili, and cumin. You might want to make this one a meal all on its own!


2 cups raw pumpkin, cubed

⅛ tsp turmeric

¼ cup fresh or frozen coconut, chunked or desiccated

1 fresh green chili

½ tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp coconut (for topping)

1 tsp coconut oil 

2 small shallots, sliced

⅛ tsp black mustard seeds

4 curry leaves

1 dry red chili



Place the pumpkin cubes and turmeric in a large pot filled with about a cup of water, just enough to cover the pumpkin. Bring water to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until the pumpkin is tender. Drain and mash the pumpkin.

Place the coconut, chili, and cumin in a food processor and pulse to a rough paste. Alternatively, use a stone mortar and pestle to manually pulverize. Add to the pumpkin mash and mix thoroughly on low heat.

Dry toast the 2 tbsp of coconut in a frying pan until gently browned. Set aside for garnish.

Add oil to the frying pan and cook the shallots and mustard seeds until they start to soften. Add the curry leaves and chili. Cook for a few minutes more until shallots are gently browned.

Add the shallots and spices to the pumpkin mixture and stir thoroughly. Cook for 1-2 minutes, top with toasted coconut, and serve.

Stir Fried Morning Glory

Sounds nice, right? It is actually that nice! Who would've thought that a dish by the name of  Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng could be so satisfying? Morning glory, also known as water spinach, is one of Thailand's most popular dishes among locals and tourists alike. The wilted texture, slight crunch, and savory sauce that combines all the delectable flavors of Thai cuisine come together in one simple but rewarding side dish. And it's green, which is always welcome on the dinner plate.



1 bunch water spinach (morning glory)

4 Thai hot chilies

3 large cloves garlic

½ tbsp yellow soybean paste

½ tbsp soy sauce

½ tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil



Cut the morning glory into 4” long pieces and place in a large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients.

Heat the oil in a large wok until hot, and add the contents of the bowl. Quickly stir the mixture as it fries until the morning glory is wilted.

Serve immediately.

holiday brussel sprounts

Maple Bacon Brussel Sprouts

Don't skip by this one just because you think you don't like brussel sprouts. This is the Sprout upgraded. Smothered in the sticky sweetness of pure maple syrup with the veritable tang of apple cider vinegar, pebbled with bacon crumbles. This is all the goodness of brussel sprouts (major vitamin C and K kick) with a tasty uplift. If you're making this for company, don't be shy on portion size––consider doubling up because everyone goes back for seconds! Halve each sprout or cut into quarters for a more thorough cook.



4 oz of bacon, diced

1 lb brussels sprouts, cut in half

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

¼ tsp salt



In a large skillet, saute the bacon at medium heat until it resembles pebbles. Remove the pieces and place them on paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Leave the bacon fat in the pan for later use.

Add the brussel sprouts to the bacon fat and saute at medium heat for about 7 minutes until they begin to crispen. Stir once or twice.

Reduce to low heat and add the maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Saute for about a minute, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are well coated and the syrup thickens.

Add the bacon and sprinkle with salt (hold back on the salt if the bacon is already salty), adjusting to taste. Heat the mixture until warmed through.

Zucchini Salad

This might be the easiest side you've ever made. Light, but with the satisfying crunch of raw zucchini and toasted pine nuts and the pleasing tang of fresh lemon and parmesan cheese. This side dish salad pairs well with poultry and fish but that doesn't mean it can't side up with a tender steak as a complementary offset to balance the heaviness of red meat. Use a vegetable peeler or spiralizer to achieve slender, tender zucchini ribbons. Keep a close eye on the pine nuts during toasting, as they start slow but can char quickly.


2 zucchinis, shaved into long slender ribbons

1 handful of arugula

1 handful of fresh basil leaves

2 tbsp of pine nuts, toasted

1 tbsp fresh parmesan cheese, grated

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 tbsp olive oil



Dry toast the pine nuts in a fry pan, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Set aside.

Gently toss the zucchini, arugula, and basil leaves on a serving platter. Sprinkle the pine nuts and parmesan cheese, and drizzle the lemon and olive oil over top. Gently toss and serve.

Sweet Potato & Butter Lentils

Buttery, mushy, golden goodness. Earthy sage, sticky maple syrup, and fragrant parsley feature in this unexpected side dish. This mashup is a delicious way to get an extra shot of protein on the plate. Choose between sweet potato, butternut squash, or carrots as the base, and go for dried organic green lentils. Crumbled goat cheese topping is optional but gives it a delightful, tangy twist.


For the salad:

1 pound sweet potatoes, butternut squash or carrots, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces (about 4 cups)

2 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt & black pepper

1 cup green lentils, rinsed

½ cup fresh parsley leaves & stems, chopped

½ cup goat cheese, crumbled (optional)


For the brown butter vinaigrette:

1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, minced

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp maple syrup

Sea salt & black pepper



Place a rack in the center of your oven and heat your oven to 375°F.

On a baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread out evenly, place the sheet in the oven, and roast for about 15-20 minutes under tender and golden, occasionally moving the pieces.

Fill a pot with 6 cups of water and add the lentils. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt. Bring water to a boil, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes until lentils are just tender. Drain and return lentils to the pot. Cover to keep warm.

For the vinaigrette, put sage in a small bowl. Melt the butter in a small frying pan over low heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until milk solids are golden brown.

Pour the browned butter over the sage. It may foam a bit, so allow a minute for that to settle. Then, whisk in the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and maple syrup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the potatoes to the lentils and pour the dressing over top. Stir gently to combine. Add parsley and more salt and pepper, if desired.

Transfer the dish onto a serving platter and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Your Tastebuds Will Tell You...

The world offers an incredible mix of taste, texture, aroma, ingredients, and arrangement of food in delectable, savory side dishes. Enjoy five unique and surprisingly delightful ones here. From our kitchen to yours, side-kick your way through the holiday season!

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